by David Eide .

I watched Bill Gates being interviewed about computers, technology and saving the world. Although one can't criticize his attempts to save the world one can make an observation that he is both naive and rather deluded. The problem with these pie-in-the-sky types is that the vaunted economy goes through bust cycles as well as boom cycles and when the bust comes many things are reduced. And despite the fact the world appears solid and unbeatable at the moment, it is also becoming more complex and out of the range of experience. That tells me something not thought of, something unpredictable, comes in from right field and flattens it.

His kind of sophomoric optimism, backed up by his billions, is wanted by the public. Hope is far better than cynicism. He seems to think that technology will solve everything and that the Earth and its peoples are getting better and better all the time. He doesn't stop to think that (1) there are the infamous unintended consequences to powerful, disruptive technologies that don't get solved through time until there is resistance to the blind faith in technology. And (2) technology does as much damage to liberal, democratic values as anything. Technology is driving the wealth divide and subsequent polarization that is never suffered well in a democracy. And it appears the easier life is, the worse democracy becomes because the people get very dependent on a technological world they do not understand. Rather than "eternity" the people are vouchsafed a pleasant, rather empty life that doesn't require all that much from them. Democracy is improved through challenge that is more demanding than learning curves offered up by new technology. Those learning curves plus the cost of technology make people buy into the whole project of making life easier and less apt to criticize the object that makes them learn and makes them pay.

The point is the last thing you want in a liberal, democracy is dependent people. The last thing you want are a few experts who know and push this technology on the world like some vengeful,barbaric army.

What disturbs me most about the kind of optimism I hear from Gates and have heard by most people in the technology field is that there is no honesty without resistance. Where is the resistance to technology? There must be resistance to any power without which the power gets very corrupt, stupidly idealistic, frothing up in a bubble of self-myth. The present administration in power is a great example of what happens.

The best thing to do with technology is leave it, go into the wilderness and discover the root of value, the root of ones humanity, believe in that value, come back and live it out against all the shit thrown at one, and then use technology to further the value.

Technology, like capital is a fact. It's not going away. I didn't create it. I benefit from it but whatever benefit I get from it is destroyed by the next generation and so I am a mere cog, "dependent" on what I haven't created for a small number of benefits.

At least resist the con artists who come around trying to convince everyone that technology is the savior. Gates is not a con artist. He is simply a guy who has lived only as princes who have inherited a kingdom have lived. The guilt gets to them; they pay it off, some good gets done but it is woefully short and if you intend to save the world and are woefully short what have you done but raise false expectations? And for all the technology running freely around the world is the world being saved?

We live in contradictions; we love the power of things but we must resist them for our own good. Technology will often make life appear absurd and fated in a negative sense, other times we know we are at a place never achieved before so why not be happy and optimistic about it?

The human being is much more likely to take powers and use them for his purposes than to understand powers and critique them. The first one leads to war, the second one leads to poetry or, at least, philosophy.

Who has not experienced the city as a grinding, meaningless thing? Therefore not fit for free and liberal democratic human beings.

It is also richness and delight; a two-edged sword.

Human beings break down long before the political or economic system does.

It is not an either/or thing at all. The powers of the world are "good," "necessary" "real" and won't be destroyed. Much of it is admirable. We certainly see the titanic effects of technology through the last 100 years. I'm not at all certain that it has improved the abilities of human beings. It has improved the mechanical abilities, no question. It's an open-ended question because it is used for good purposes and bad purposes.

Technology has us by the short hairs because we can't go back to the old days; days that are similar to a lot of what we see in the rest of the world with low tech, high poverty, vicious govt. and so on. That much is clear. If we go back it is only because some catastrophic event has taken place. On the other hand if we don't use the benefits of technology to become better as people then what?

These were some of the questions that got to me as a young guy when technology was represented by the Bomb and the maniacal car and the massive mainframe computer.

The internet is the last technology to be very disruptive. Since I've been a small part of it my view may be skewered a bit. I have less optimism about it now but I'm still hopeful.

Is there a wisdom to technology? Can we discern anything along those lines? Does it allow for the choices that improve the ability of human beings to embrace their humanity? And what happens when it's discovered that it's but a gigantic spy network on behalf of police agencies, corporations, and the dark web?

Technology is important because so much capital, so much mind, so much labor, so much of the assets of a nation goes into making technology, selling it, maintaining it and so on.

One finally gives in and say, "ah, the world is as it job is not to disturb it or judge it harshly but to simply view it as objectively as I can and find some truth and beauty. Many will come to disturb it and judge it. Few will meditate on the nature of the world."

As I stated before, the literary imagination stays in the region of experience. It builds on the physical presence of nature, cities, peoples, and so on. The intellectual properties are a bit more expansive and abstract and sail around the world to gain a kind of orientation. Why not? We are in the position to orientate ourselves so we must do it and do it without, as Christ knew, losing "our soul." It's also true that we are easily carried along by some idealism that turns out to be its opposite and end up fighting those who really benefit from its use.

There is something to be said for pure, hard, tough experience of the body struggling, in concert with the mind, to go someplace or do something.

Life is good, yes, mostly it is good. It can be very bad at times. A man is more responsible now than ever to develop some meaningful life that he believes in. The question of technology is really the question of culture. What does it do to the poor people who suffer it? What does it do to the fortunate people who use it to their advantage?

* * * * * * * *


Back to Essay Page

Back to

© 2014 David Eide. All rights reserved.